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Proportional Representation - the Real Agenda

Sorting the wheat from the chaff in B.C. Politics

Proportional Representation - the Real Agenda thanks to John Winter

The Pros and Cons of the 2018 B.C. Referendum on Electoral Reform

Proportional Representation - the Real Agenda thanks to John Winter

Today (First Past the Post, FPTP) vs Proportional Representation (PR)

Proportional Representation - the Real Agenda thanks to John Winter

Referendum Ballot with FPTP (First Past the Post) Option Selected



'The Big Lie'

“In the coming weeks, British Columbians will be asked to vote in a very important referendum on changing how we elect our MLAs, not an insignificant initiative. We’ve rejected proportional representation twice before. It’s essential we do so a third time. I support our current voting system, which is simple, produces stable governments and is one of the institutional pillars that all our successes stand on. On the first question on the ballot, I urge you to vote in favour of First Past the Post (FPTP), option one. The alternative is to jump into the unknown. Three versions of Proportional Representation (PR) are on offer. Two have never been used or tried anywhere in the world and the third is presently used in just four countries. That third option is called Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). It was soundly rejected in BC by the hard-working Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform in 2005 because of the damage it does to local representation.

I point this out because there is a big lie in this referendum campaign. It underscores everything proponents of electoral reform say. The claims that PR jurisdictions out-perform ones like ours, or that PR improves voter turn-out or that the environment fares better under their preferred electoral system are not comparing apples to apples. Such claims stand on a foundation of misdirection, lies and obfuscations. That is because the electoral systems that inform the research findings are not even on the ballot in BC this fall.

The Yes side says PR is used in more than 80 countries. In truth, only four countries actually use any of the forms that appear on BC’s referendum ballot. The rest use some form of “list” PR. That means parties make lists of candidates to be elected, and seats are allocated based on the overall proportion of votes. Over 90% of the countries held up as examples use electoral systems BC isn’t even voting on. Citizens of countries that do use list system are becoming very uncomfortable with this form of election. The evidence is clear on at least two fronts.

First, radical parties of the left and the right are taking advantage of the low threshold to win a seat. They seize on voters’ fears and frustrations and run single-issue, municipal-style campaigns based on emotion, ignoring vast swathes of policy. You can see this today in Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, even Italy, which has had 61 governments in 67 years under such systems.

Secondly, countries are constantly fiddling with their electoral processes to try and make a flawed system work better. New Zealand has recently passed a bill that would strip MPs of their seat if they switch parties or their leader kicks them out of the party. Germany is trying for the third time to introduce a vote threshold to minimize small parties. The second question on our ballots in the fall referendum reflects the dense academic nature of this attempt to fix proportional representation.

Let’s look at the one option on the ballot used in the real world - MMP. Under this model 40% of the elected members are from party lists. This means constituencies will be at least 40% larger, with a real impact in the north and interior of BC. For example, the provincial riding of Stikine already large, if increased by 40% to allow for party lists, would be larger than New Zealand! Taking systems in use in small countries and transferring them to BC in a social experiment disenfranchises people outside the Lower Mainland. There is nothing fair about that. Local representation is cast aside.

On the No side, we know how important a local MLA is. Our current system, First Past the Post (FPTP) puts local representation first, where it should be. Most countries which use FPTP are or were members of the British Commonwealth. It is part of our heritage, part of who we are as Canadians, mirroring our Parliamentary traditions.

MMP is used for parliamentary elections in four countries including Germany and New Zealand. In Germany, it took almost six months to form a coalition government after last September's election, and is growing ever more fragile. Germany’s Bundestag is now home to seven parties, including radical parties on both the right and the left. Proportional representation amplifies their impact by giving them legitimacy and resources to advance their extremist agendas.

New Zealand recently switched electoral systems to MMP. It’s not going well. The current government is a hodge-podge of the Labour Party, the Greens and an anti-immigrant party called New Zealand First. The latter two members didn’t elect a single member in constituency elections by getting the most votes. They leveraged their seven percent of the popular vote into four cabinet posts, including that of Deputy Prime Minister.

This is the big lie.

PR promoters claim that proportional representation is the solution to all our electoral woes and point to its widespread use around the world. The truth is that the options we’ve been given are complex, esoteric and used in very few places with little experience to point to. We’ve rejected changing our system in referendums twice this century for very good reasons. How many more times do we have to go to this well? Another lie is in the details. All three options on the ballot leave the important details, including maps and the number of MLAs until after the referendum. It’s only then the NDP/Green marriage of convenience will carefully choose those to favour their electoral prospects. This referendum is a desperate move to give the Green party a permanent platform. If they can elect three people in a small corner of the province, they deserve three seats.

With apologies to Churchill, FPTP is the worst electoral system, except for all the others. Vote to keep our current system, and ignore the lies, vote to keep the status quo.”

by John Winter, Past President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce, October 2018
 

The new guide from Elections B.C. doesn't tell us that, based on historical voting patterns, our future under proportional representation will consist entirely of successive minority governments, dickering for power through backroom deals with splinter groups. It doesn't tell us that the balance of power may be in the hands of any radical bunch that can get five per cent of the popular vote. It also doesn't tell us that all future provincial elections will be fought and decided in Vancouver and Victoria, while the rest of the province is relegated to insignificance. Pro-rep guarantees all three outcomes. Count me as a decided 'No! Clare Stevens, October 2018


QuotaBills
Voting is a civic sacrament. - Theodore Hesburgh

There is no gambling like politics. - Benjamin Disraeli

Politics makes strange postmasters. - Kin Hubbard

Intelligence has nothing to do with politics. - Londo Molari

From politics, it was an easy step to silence. - Jane Austen

The severity of the itch is proportional to the reach. - Steven Wright

The art of government is the organization of idolatry. - George Bernard Shaw

If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal. - Emma Goldman

The duty of a patriot is to protect his country from its government. - Edward Abbey

The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread. - Steven Wright

Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don't vote. - William E. Simon

University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small. - Henry Kissinger

Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for. - Will Rogers

The trouble with free elections is, you never know who is going to get in. - Leonid Brezhnev

In a democracy the majority has every right to act as stupid as the minority. - Frank Dane

The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop. - P.J. O'Rourke

I do have a political agenda. It's to have as few regulations as possible. - Dan Quayle

The short memories of American voters is what keeps our politicians in office. - Will Rogers

Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business. - Tom Robbins

I learned a long time ago in Hollywood that the only person I should vote for is myself. - Jack Nicholson

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. - Winston Churchill

Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. - James Bovard

He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career. - George Bernard Shaw

It's our experience that political leaders don't always mean the opposite of what they say. - Abba Eban

I must study politics and war that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. - John Adams

Ex-Presidents of the United States get state subsidies. Not so in Russia. You get no government support. - Mikhail Gorbachev

Democracy is very different in U.S. and A. from Kazakhstan. In America, woman can vote, but horse cannot! - Borat Sagdiyev

Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. - Frederic Bastiat

Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds. - John P Barlow

The hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning. - Theodor Adorno

Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. - Thurgood Marshall

Harold MacMillan is a very intelligent man, who, as so often happens in politics, achieved supreme power too late. - Malcolm Muggeridge

In politics it is necessary either to betray one's country or the electorate. I prefer to betray the electorate. - Charles de Gaulle

What is politics but persuading the public to vote for this and support that and endure these for the promise of those? - Gilbert Highet

A democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates. - Gore Vidal

When it comes to politics, I sit down on a sofa and grab some popcorn - or sometimes I crouch down in order not to get shot. - Sergey Galitsky

The punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is to live under the government of worse men. - Plato

An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry. - George Eliot

Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other. - Oscar Ameringer

Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the Government take care of him, better take a closer look at the American Indian. - Henry Ford


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